An analysis of critical thinking levels in undergraduate athletic training curricula

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Human Performance and Recreation

First Advisor

Sandra K. Gangstead

Advisor Department

Human Performance and Recreation


The purpose of this study was to examine undergraduate athletic training curricula to determine whether or not educators are providing their students with objectives and examination questions which foster critical thinking within the second, third, and fourth years (Class Levels) of undergraduate education. This study was designed to determined if there were any differences in cognitive skill levels (using Bloom's Taxonomy) between the three class levels, and to determine if there were any relationships among the class levels with respect to opportunities for providing critical thinking learning experiences. Letters were sent to thirty undergraduate athletic training program directors who were seeking CAAHEP (Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs) accreditation during the 1994-1995 academic year. Thirteen program directors (43%) submitted their course syllabi and examinations from all or some of their athletic training-specific courses. Curricular materials (educational objectives, examination questions, and written assignments) were submitted from all three class levels. These materials were classified into one of Bloom's Taxonomies on the researcher's Course Item Analysis instrument. A chi-square analysis was performed on the objectives and demonstrated a statistically significant relationship between the three class levels with respect to Cognitive Levels (p $<$.005), but not with respect to Critical Thinking Levels (p $>$.05). As the class level increased, there were more objectives distributed within the higher cognitive level. A statistically significant chi-square value (p $<$.005) was found between the three class levels with respect to examination questions, but again, there was no significance with respect to critical thinking levels (p $>$.05). Although the data for written assignments was inadequate for statistical measure, all of the assignments were within critical thinking levels--specifically Synthesis and Evaluation. It was concluded that: (1) athletic training educators should be given training with respect to writing educational objectives, (2) examinations in higher class levels (juniors or seniors) should be written to assess students' thinking, (3) educators need to write fewer multiple choice questions, and (4) critical thinking may be considered as a criteria for accreditation as it is for other medical professional preparation programs, such as nursing.